1. https://scopetrader.com/mounts
  2. https://scopetrader.com/choosing-a-forever-telescope-mount/
6/19/2024 12:12:26 PM
Choosing a forever telescope mount
Choosing a mount,Telescope mount,Forever mount,Software,Astro-Physics,Software Bisque,Losmandy,iOptron
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Choosing a forever telescope mount


Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Richard Harris Richard Harris

Looking to invest in a telescope mount that will last a lifetime? This guide covers everything you need to know when choosing a forever telescope mount. From key considerations like precision, stability, and load capacity to the best options from top brands like Astro-Physics, Software Bisque, Losmandy, and iOptron.

We've all been there. You buy one mount, only to upgrade a few months or years later. Always in pursuit of better tracking, more precise GOTO, and carrying heavier payloads. It's a never-ending cycle of chasing the next best thing. But when should it stop? When do you just decide to give in and buy that "one mount" that you'll keep forever? Is there such a thing as a "forever mount?"

As someone who has owned everything from a basic tripod to a CG5-style mount, LXD55, LXD75, Losmandy, LX200, LX850, Atlas, iOptron, Software Bisque, and AP mounts, I can tell you that the search for the perfect mount can feel like an endless quest. But a "forever mount" is more than a myth; it's the ultimate investment in your stargazing journey.

A forever mount is like finding your perfect celestial soulmate—reliable, steady, and always ready to support you. It's the kind of mount that you can grow old with, supporting everything from your trusty beginner telescope to your dream astrophotography setup. It's the mount that brings you peace of mind, knowing that no matter how many telescopes you collect, it'll be there, steadfast and true.

So, when do you make the leap? When your passion for astronomy is unwavering, your goals in astrophotography or observation are clear, and you're ready to invest in a high-quality, durable mount that meets all your needs. When you're tired of the upgrade merry-go-round and just want a stable, reliable companion for your night sky adventures, that's when it's time to get your forever mount. Trust me, it's a game-changer.

Observatory or no observatory when choosing a forever telescope mount

Now, whether you have an observatory or not, your mount choice is crucial. If you have an observatory, a forever mount can transform it into a high-performance powerhouse. Observatories allow for permanent setups, meaning you can go for heavier, more robust mounts without worrying about portability. A solid, permanent mount in an observatory can handle larger telescopes and accessories, providing unparalleled stability and tracking precision.

On the other hand, if you don't have an observatory, portability becomes a key factor. You'll need a mount that's both sturdy and relatively easy to set up and tear down. But don't worry, there are forever mounts designed for portability too. These mounts strike a balance between weight, stability, and ease of use, making them perfect for mobile astronomers who chase clear skies.

To me, it's really more like "forever mounts" rather than just "one mount to rule them all." Because I have an observatory, I need both a portable forever mount and a permanent forever mount. 

The portable mount is for those spontaneous nights under clear skies, while the permanent mount ensures my observatory setup is rock-solid and always ready for serious astrophotography or deep-sky observations. It's about having the right tools for each scenario.

Key considerations for a forever mount

12 common problems with telescope mounts

1. Tracking Errors: Inaccurate tracking of celestial objects, often due to machining or mechanical issues, can cause objects to drift out of the field of view, especially during long exposure astrophotography.

2. Periodic Error: Repeating errors in tracking caused by imperfections in the gears of the mount. These can affect the smoothness of tracking and result in blurred images.

3. Backlash: Slack or play in the gears, which can lead to delays in response when changing directions. This is particularly problematic when making fine adjustments or during automated guiding.

4. Alignment Issues: Difficulty achieving precise polar alignment, which is crucial for accurate tracking and minimizing drift.

5. Vibration: Unwanted vibrations can come from the mount itself, the ground, or even the surrounding environment. These can disrupt both visual observations and astrophotography.

6. Weight Capacity: Overloading the mount beyond its specified capacity can lead to instability, tracking errors, and potential damage to the mount and equipment.

7. Power Supply Problems: Inconsistent or inadequate power supply can cause the mount to malfunction or stop working altogether.

8. Software and Firmware Bugs: Issues with the mount’s control software or firmware can lead to erratic behavior, loss of settings, or failure to track properly.

9. Mechanical Wear and Tear: Over time, components can wear out or become misaligned, affecting the performance and accuracy of the mount.

10. Weather Sensitivity: Exposure to extreme weather conditions, such as humidity, cold, or heat, can affect the performance and longevity of the mount.

11. Cable Management: Poorly managed cables can get tangled, snag, or pull on the mount, affecting its movement and tracking.

12. Setup Complexity: Some mounts can be complex to set up and require a steep learning curve, which can be frustrating for beginners.

Key considerations for a "Forever" mount

1. Precision and stability

When it comes to choosing a telescope mount, precision and stability are non-negotiable. You want your mount to track celestial objects with the accuracy of a cat stalking a laser pointer and minimize periodic error like a ninja avoiding a spotlight. Whether you’re gazing at the stars or capturing the cosmos in all its glory, your mount needs to perform like a champ under any conditions. It should provide a rock-solid platform that laughs in the face of vibrations and maintains laser-sharp alignment. Because let’s face it, the only thing that should be wobbling during your stargazing session is your excitement!

2. Load capacity

The load capacity of a mount is a big deal, especially if you plan on using larger telescopes or decking out your rig with multiple accessories. Think of it as the mount’s muscle power. A high payload capacity means it can handle a wide range of telescopes and imaging equipment, making it as versatile as a Swiss Army knife. Investing in a mount with a generous load capacity is like getting a gym membership for your setup—it future-proofs your gear, letting you add heavier or more complex configurations without breaking a sweat. Because let’s face it, no one wants their stargazing interrupted by a mount that can’t handle the weight!

3. Upgradeability and support

The longevity of a telescope mount depends heavily on the TLC it gets from its manufacturer. Brands that dish out regular firmware updates, top-notch customer support, and easily accessible replacement parts are like the guardian angels of your mount, ensuring it keeps up with the latest tech trends. Opting for a reputable manufacturer with a stellar history of support and innovation is like finding the fountain of youth for your mount. It keeps your gear fresh, functional, and ready to wow you with every starry night.

4. Ease of use

User-friendliness is another critical factor in selecting a forever mount. A mount that is easy to set up, align, and operate can enhance the overall experience of stargazing or astrophotography. Features like intuitive control interfaces, automated alignment procedures, and robust software integration can simplify the process and reduce the learning curve, allowing users to focus more on their observations and less on technical challenges.

5. Durability and build quality

The durability and build quality of a mount are indicative of its ability to withstand prolonged use and harsh conditions. Materials like stainless steel, high-grade aluminum, and other weather-resistant components can enhance the mount's longevity. Additionally, a solid construction with minimal mechanical play and high-quality bearings can contribute to smoother and more reliable operation over time.

Popular "Forever" mount options

Popular forever mount options

1. Astro-Physics 1100GTO

The Astro-Physics 1100GTO is widely regarded as one of the best options for a forever mount. Known for its exceptional precision, durability, and customer support, this mount offers advanced features such as absolute encoders, high-precision tracking, and a robust construction that can handle heavy payloads. Users on ScopeTrader frequently praise the 1100GTO for its reliable performance and ability to support a variety of telescopes and imaging setups.

Starting Cost: $9,300

Add-On Costs:

  • Precision encoders: $2,500
  • Portable pier or tripod: $1,000 - $1,500
  • CP4 control box: $1,200
     

2. Software Bisque Paramount MYT

The Paramount MYT by Software Bisque is another highly esteemed mount, especially among astrophotographers. Its robust build, advanced software integration, and high precision make it a popular choice for those seeking a long-term investment. The Paramount MYT's software ecosystem, including TheSkyX, is highly regarded for its comprehensive functionality and seamless integration with the mount, providing a powerful toolset for both imaging and observation.

Starting Cost: $17,000

Add-On Costs:

  • Paramount Versa-Plate: $400
  • TheSkyX Professional Edition software: $349
  • Permanent pier: $1,500 - $2,000
  • Precision polar alignment scope: $400
     

3. iOptron CEM60

The iOptron CEM60 is another noteworthy option, offering a unique center-balanced design that provides excellent stability and precision. The CEM60's innovative engineering and high load capacity make it suitable for a wide range of telescopes and accessories. Users appreciate its ease of use, accurate tracking, and the support provided by iOptron, making it a strong contender for a forever mount.

Starting Cost: $2,700

Add-On Costs:

  • iPolar electronic polar scope: $250
  • Extra counterweights: $80 each
  • Hard case for mount: $300
     

4. Losmandy G11

The Losmandy G11 is often recommended for its balance between performance and cost. This mount has been a staple for decades and is known for its reliable performance and modular design. The G11's ability to accommodate various upgrades and modifications ensures that it can adapt to new technology and user needs over time, making it a solid choice for those looking for a durable and flexible mount.

Starting Cost: $3,500

Add-On Costs:

  • Gemini 2 GoTo system: $1,400
  • Precision polar scope: $300
  • Additional counterweights: $100 each
     

5. Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro

The Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro features a belt drive system that significantly reduces backlash, enhancing tracking accuracy, and its SynScan GoTo system provides access to over 42,000 celestial objects. It has the capability to support a variety of telescopes and accessories, and several optional upgrades are available. This makes it an excellent choice for astronomers seeking a high-performance, cost-effective mount.

Starting Cost: $1,850

Add-On Costs:

  • SynScan Wi-Fi adapter: $100
  • Extra counterweights: $60 each
  • Power supply: $50 - $100
     

 

The role of technology in telescope mounts

The role of technology in telescope mounts

The integration of advanced technology into telescope mounts has revolutionized the field of astronomy and astrophotography. Features like automated alignment, GPS integration, and wireless control have made mounts more user-friendly and versatile. Here are some technological advancements that have shaped the development of modern telescope mounts:

1. Automated alignment systems

Automated alignment systems have simplified the process of setting up and calibrating telescope mounts. Technologies like GPS, plate solving, and star recognition allow users to achieve precise alignment with minimal effort. These systems can save time and reduce frustration, especially for beginners or those with limited observing windows.

2. Remote and wireless control

The ability to control telescope mounts remotely or wirelessly has opened up new possibilities for astronomers. Wireless control via smartphone apps or dedicated software allows users to adjust settings, track objects, and capture images without being physically present at the mount. This convenience is particularly valuable for astrophotographers who need to make fine adjustments while monitoring their imaging setup.

3. Advanced tracking algorithms

Modern telescope mounts are equipped with sophisticated tracking algorithms that compensate for various factors affecting accuracy. These algorithms can correct for periodic error, backlash, and atmospheric refraction, ensuring smooth and precise tracking. Advanced tracking capabilities are essential for long-exposure astrophotography, where even slight deviations can result in blurred images.

4. Integration with imaging software

Seamless integration with imaging software is a significant advantage for astrophotographers. Software packages like TheSkyX, PHD2, and AstroPixel Processor provide tools for planning, capturing, and processing astrophotography sessions. Mounts that integrate well with these software solutions offer a more cohesive and efficient workflow, enhancing the overall experience.

Conclusion

So what do I have?

Three mounts serve most of my needs, well - 4 if you include my smart telescope.

1. The Software Bisque MX+ (100+ lbs load, mounted on a pier in my dome)

2. The RST-300 strain wave gear mount (can carry 75+ lbs without a CW)

3. The AM5 (grab-and-go strain wave gear mount for wide-field portable setups)

4. The ZWO smart telescope, not a mount, but an all-in-one fun gadget!

Investing in a "forever" telescope mount requires careful consideration of various factors like precision, load capacity, upgradeability, ease of use, and durability. Mounts such as the Astro-Physics 1100GTO, Software Bisque Paramount MYT, Losmandy G11, and iOptron CEM60 are popular choices, trusted for their reliability and performance. Choosing a high-quality mount from a reputable manufacturer ensures that your equipment remains a valuable asset for years to come.

However, let's be real—not everyone has a bottomless budget. Telescopes and cameras matter just as much as the mount, if not more. Investing in a "forever" mount is about making a smart, long-term choice in your passion for astronomy. By prioritizing key factors like precision and support, you can explore the universe with confidence, knowing your mount will keep up with your cosmic adventures.


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